First, let me start off by saying that we are not in any way inferring that a smart home and smart home technology will stop the Coronavirus.
However, it is an interesting discussion to talk about all the ways that home automation, smart home technology, and all the advancements in home controls that we’ve made over the last couple years can help us ‘weather the storm’ of this virus – regardless of how serious it becomes for us.
Before you leave a snarky comment about the article title, know that we are saying this somewhat in jest, but we are not making light of the seriousness of the coronavirus. Nonetheless, we find that in all times of stress a little humor can help the situation.
So, today, while we’re talking about home technology, let’s look at eight ways that the recent advancements in home automation could help us get through this catastrophe. What we’re going to focus on today are home automation options, home upgrades, and smart home devices that you can add to your home to make your life easier and perhaps a bit more germ-free.
Number one on the list has to be lighting control. Of all the things that we install in people’s homes when we’re trying to build a smart home or add smart home devices, home lighting control is, in my opinion, really the greatest advancement and the one that adds the most convenience for the home or business owner.
If you have a business or a busy home, your light switches are absolute ground zero for germs. Everyone’s coming and going and they’re touching their face and flicking on a light switch and they’re going to the bathroom and turning the lights on turning the lights off…you get the idea!
It’s even worse if you’re in a public area or in a large office building where tons of people are turning on and off the lights.
Here, having automated lighting (so that lights can come on and off when activated by motion) is super helpful. It stops everyone from having to touch the same small plastic square several times per day. The other option is to have lighting control on your phone, where you can control all the lights in your home.
Cut The Spread Of Germs…
Now you’re not spreading germs and touching multiple places that other people have touched. You can turn on and off the lights in your home, you can control the dimmers, you can control your landscape lighting….you control every light in your home from the palm of your hand without cross-contamination.
Another item that will help you cut down on germ contamination from having people touch devices (and also give you a huge amount of convenience) is the remote controlled thermostat. Now you’re not touching thermostats quite as often as you are touching a light switch, but during the Spring and the Fall, when there are big temperature changes, everyone in the office wants to jump up and turn the air up or turn the heat up or turn them down….you know the drill!
This is true in the home also. The kids are upstairs and crank down the AC and people downstairs turn up the heat; you have multiple people touching the thermostat. By having your thermostats controlled wirelessly with an app on your phone, once again you cut down on having multiple people touching the same small plastic piece.
A Smart HUB will help…
Add in the extra layer of having a Smart Hub, and your device has a voice-control. Now you have even more ability to cut down on germs, and of course, this also raises your convenience factor.
Besides just not touching the devices, having accurate temperature control of your house can help cut down on the cold and flu seasonal germs as well. Flu germs grow in warm, moist environments and if you’re not occupying parts of your home or your office, you can turn down the heat and let that part of the house be cooler while other parts of your home are kept more climate controlled.
This is also great if you do not use part of your building or your home all the time, only having to heat and cool the areas that you actually occupy will save you money on your electric bill as well.
Another device that will help you get through any emergency are smart hubs placed throughout the house or a voice-controlled/intercom system. The Google Hub or the Amazon Alexa are a great gateway not just for playing music, but a gateway for communication as well.
You can use an Alexa or a Google Hub to make a phone call. You can use them to order items online. They’re super handy in general, and again, it does several things so that you don’t have to touch anything. You’re cutting down on germs, and if you are already ill and possibly cannot reach your phone, you can use your voice to call for help.
Remember when we were younger and the TV commercial: Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up! You probably haven’t seen that commercial recently, but that doesn’t mean the problem has gone away. Today, a Smart Hub is a way that elderly people, or people who are bedridden or unstable around the house, can be connected to the outside world.
Smart Door Locks
Another addition to your smart home arsenal that can help you in this corona virus situation is the smart door lock. This is absolutely one of the most convenient items after lighting control. These are door locks that you can activate without touching, which is great for germs, but you can also activate them remotely from a wireless device such as your cell phone.
You can also voice-control them and set them on timers. These are great devices if, once again, you’re trying not to come in contact with people. After ordering some items from the internet and checking the expected delivery, you could pop the lock to your door and have a delivery person leave something in your foyer. You would never have to come in contact with him. This is also great to quarantine certain sections of your house.
Remote Door Locks A More Reliable today…
Also, if you are having outside people come in to perform work while you’re home you do not need to come in contact with them. For example, let’s say your painter doesn’t mind getting the coronavirus and is still willing to paint your kitchen while the country is on lockdown. You can isolate yourself in other parts of the house and when he gets there you can open the door from your phone. He can come in, do his work and leave.
Same goes for a second home or vacation home; you can let people in and out when you’re not there. You don’t ever have to come near anyone and catch anyone’s germs. So, obviously, we’re making fun of the situation a little bit, but you can see how handy remote door locks can be.
They are also great for kids; if you have your kids coming home after school and no one’s going to be home for a little bit then they can get into the house easily. Your remote locks can give you a report to let you know when they were opened and who accessed them and who’s coming and going in your house at various times. Smart Door Locks are one of the great advancements in the smart home automation movement.
We talked a lot about security cameras in our articles, and the improvements in the technology have been so amazing in the last couple years, that it’s silly not to have a few cameras around your house. At the very least, you should have a video doorbell, but let’s also look at covering other portions of your house.
Again, making a little bit of light of our current situation, but let’s just say that your neighbor (from down the street….that you don’t like) didn’t stock pile up on coffee or toilet paper and he comes prowling around your home one evening seeing if he can maybe steal some toilet paper from you.
You Can Talk Through Your Cameras To Visitors Or Intruders…
Security cameras are a great addition to your home in this case and, depending on your variety, they have night vision and they’re motion controlled. You could be sitting in bed streaming Netflix and your camera can pick up the motion in your backyard of your neighbor coming over the fence. From your bed and using your phone, you can turn on your lights, talk through the camera, and tell old Charlie to go back to his own house.
Security cameras are also a great addition if it’s a second home or vacation home. In a time like this, when we can’t travel as much but you have property far away, your wireless security cameras could be your eyes and ears protecting your assets while you’re not there.
One thing that we’ve always loved about home automation is how all of these components and pieces can intersect and cross over and work together. While we’re talking about security cameras and video doorbells, let’s also talk about your Smart Hub and wireless devices around the house and ordering online.
If you’re trying to cut down on germs and you don’t want to leave your home, but you didn’t stock up, or you need to resupply, or you just need to order Chinese food, using a combination of a smart home speaker that will make a phone call for you and your device you can….order Chinese food or pizza or wings or toilet paper and an Amazon pantry order, have it delivered to your video doorbell, talk to the delivery person, use your Apple pay or Android wallet to leave them a tip (if it’s food) and then, once they’re gone, you can go to the door and get your dinner or toilet paper.
This situation can play out in so many different scenarios, from getting delivery of prescriptions for medicine, to regular grocery deliveries and other necessary services.
You don’t even have to have a ‘super high-tech’ smart home to know that you need good Wi-Fi. You know how you’ve been talking around the dinner table for the last year-and-a-half that your Wi-Fi is spotty and when everyone’s using it it’s kind of slow and your Netflix has been buffering and you’ve been putting it off?
Well, guess what? If you think your Wi-Fi was bad over the last year-and-a-half, imagine how it’s going to be when everyone is home and you really need to access the internet for work, or your kids need it for school! We’re not just talking about watching movies on Amazon Prime.
If this virus gets out of control, or more and more workplaces have people working from home and you actually have to get work done, what are you going to do with poor Wi-Fi? Pretty much nothing! The one big weak spot of all the smart home devices is the fact that they are connected to the internet.
You then have two pieces of equipment in the pipeline to bottleneck: the first one is your internet provider, so you should be paying for the highest and fastest speed possible. It is money well-spent! Secondly, you should have excellent coverage all throughout your house, with super-strong Wi-Fi signal everywhere.
If you’re using a Wi-Fi router or Wi-Fi antennas that are more than three years old, you aren’t getting all the performance benefits of the newest technology. You certainly don’t want to be sitting home for the next three weeks with one of the kids trying to watch Disney Plus while the oldest one is trying to do schoolwork on Google Classroom while you’re working in Google Docs and your wife is on a video conference call, and things are cutting out and buffering….we all know that this spells disaster.
When fielding basic questions about ‘turning my home into a smart home’ or ‘how can I start adding home automation products,’ we always refer people back to the network. First and foremost, you want to set up a strong internet signal in your house. It is the absolute backbone of all the devices. So depending on how this virus (and the government) is going, you still may have time to get a new network in.
In a situation like this what we’re actually preparing for and what we’re talking about are people staying home from work, staying home from school, and avoiding contact with others. We all know that this is not the zombie apocalypse because if it was, not a smart home device the world would be able to help you out. However, one device that is a bit of a crossover and can really save you if for some reason the power grid goes down temporarily, is a backup generator or batteries for your house.
This is a great addition for an emergency so that you can run the basic functions of your house, such as your refrigerator or freezer, a few lights and your security system for an extended period.
So, depending on how long the power is out, a generator can really come in very handy. We’re talking about hardwired generators, not the noisy ones you buy from Home Depot for 500 bucks. These are generators that are wired into your breaker panel and are matched to the electrical load of your house and will run your house for a significant period of time in the event of a power loss.
Besides just continuing operation of your house, many generators that you can install have the ability to function as a power cleaner and also act as a whole-house surge protection. When you have brownouts and power spikes from the electric company and there’s times of stress or bad weather, a system like this can do wonders for protecting all of the equipment you’ve invested in.
We mentioned voice control several times already, but it bears highlighting it again. Voice control of your devices in general is not only convenient, but it really helps to keep your home tidy by not having to have several different remote control devices out on various tables and counters. We’re talking about seriously clearing the clutter, even all those little remotes around the house.
Does your fan have a remote to control the speed and direction? How about that little remote for your wireless speaker? What about the garage door opener? The list can go on, but you get the idea. Having as many devices as possible voice-enabled doesn’t just make your life easier (and pretty cool) but does more to help prevent the spread of germs than you can imagine. Imagine not having to share the TV remote with anyone? Just speaking your commands can change the channel or raise the volume.
Like so many other emergencies and events in life, it’s after the fact that we really look back and realize all the things that we missed or all things that we should have prepared for and all the things that we wish we had. I know, personally, that’s happened with the last two hurricanes and evacuations.
Again, as I sit here and write this, and think about possibly being quarantined in my house for three weeks, I look around and wish I had made certain preparations. So wherever you’re sitting and reading this, I hope that your Wi-Fi is fast, I hope that your light switches are clean and free of germs, and I hope that you stocked up enough coffee and toilet paper to ‘weather the storm.’